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Using PR to Raise $9.5 Million

On the weekend of February 18-20, the 2011 Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (a.k.a. THON) saw 708 students stand for 46 hours with no sleeping and no sitting, all to raise money and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. They were successful: this year, THON raised a record-breaking $9,563,016.09 For The Kids, all of which benefits The Four Diamonds Fund.

This was the first year THON has broken the previous year’s record by more than $1 million. Each year, THON sees its total go up, and this is due to the culmination of efforts by all of the Penn State students involved. A very important aspect of this, as I mentioned in my last blog, is the Public Relations Committee, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. And that committee was busy for almost the whole 46 hours of THON Weekend. Here are some of the responsibilities the 20 Public Relations Captains had THON Weekend:

  • Escorting press – every member of the press (even Fox News!) had to enter through a specific entrance and be escorted on and off the event floor.
  • Setting up interviews – to facilitate the interview process for the press and those they spoke to, including Four Diamonds Families, dancers, and other Captains, Public Relations Captains were responsible for organizing each interview with the press.
  • Taking pictures – the Photography Captains and their committee members were busy running around all parts of the Bryce Jordan Center taking pictures of everything and anything that was going on, even at 3 a.m. on Saturday when not much was happening. Every moment was documented.
  • Updating social media – our Alternative Media Captains were constantly updating THON’s Facebook and Twitter to let those who couldn’t attend know what was going on at all times. THON even got some tweets from celebrities, commending the students for their efforts.
  • Press conferences – the five Media Relations Captains, along with the Public Relations Overall Chairperson and THON Overall Chairperson, were responsible for three press conferences throughout the weekend – one on Friday afternoon before THON started, one on Saturday afternoon at THON’s halfway point, and one immediately following the reveal of the total on Sunday. At each press conference, the press attended and were updated on THON’s progress, and any questions they had were answered.

I never thought 46 hours could go by so fast, especially on only five hours of sleep (each Captain gets two four-hour sleep shifts). February 18-20, 2011 was without a doubt one of the best weekends of my life, and I spent it laughing, crying, and chasing the press around. The Public Relations Captains and Committee helped make that $9,563,016.09 happen For The Kids.

About Colleen Hanrahan
Colleen Hanrahan is a senior at Penn State majoring in public relations and minoring in business and psychology. Hanrahan is a Director of Business Affairs for Happy Valley Communications, Penn State’s only student-run PR firm, Director of Chapter Development for the Penn State Chapter of PRSSA, and a Peer Mentor for Penn State’s College of Communications. Hanrahan hopes to move to New York City or Washington, D.C., after graduating in May 2011.

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